BY LAURA FAY
A University professor has suggested it might be time for The University to adopt a new name that reflects its identity more clearly.
The faculty senate will consider at its November meeting a proposal by Len Gougeon, Ph.D., an English professor and faculty senator. The proposal asks the senate to consider the change and possibly recommend that administration think about the issue.
Gougeon has been teaching at The University for 40 years and believes The University’s current name does not attract students and faculty who do not already know about it, he said.
He emailed a document titled “A Modest Proposal to Consider Changing the Name of The University of Scranton” to his senate constituents, and he said in an interview that the ideas should be “seriously entertained” but not necessarily accepted.
In the proposal, Gougeon cited a New York Times article from 2005 in which a marketing expert said that colleges should have names that communicate what makes them “uniquely valuable.”
The University is uniquely valuable, Gougeon wrote, because it has Catholic and Jesuit roots and it is a quality institution. Gougeon asserted in the proposal that prospective students might not investigate The University because they see only its name and do not look into it enough to learn about its Catholic and Jesuit identity.
Gougeon said he has been thinking about the implications of “The University of Scranton” for some time and believes it connotes a local university that is not religiously affiliated. He proposed that a better name would reflect The University’s place in the nation as one of 28 Jesuit schools and one of 244 Catholic schools. His suggestions are “Loyola Pennsylvania,” “Loyola University of Pennsylvania” and “Loyola University of Scranton.”
He has firsthand experience of people being unfamiliar with The University. When he tells people at conferences that he teaches at The University, he is met with “blank stares,” he said.
Gougeon cited in the proposal another New York Times article about the economic trouble facing colleges as demographics shift. According to the article “College Enrollment Falls as Economy Recovers” from July 25, college enrollment fell 2 percent in the 2012-2013 year and will likely continue to fall. The trend will mostly affect middle-tier colleges and may lead to financial problems and smaller classes, the reporter wrote.
The University has not been immune to these problems. The first-year class this year has 840 students, which is the smallest of the four classes currently enrolled.
Receiving fewer applications is dangerous for universities because it forces them to reduce admission standards, which lessens the quality of the universities’ degrees, Gougeon said.
“I’m concerned that we may see some erosion of standards in order to accommodate dwindling numbers of applicants and a shrinking applicant pool,” he said.
Many colleges are using marketing strategies to combat decreasing enrollment, and name changes have been successful in some cases.
For example, when Beaver College became Arcadia University in 2001, the number of applications increased and the average student’s SAT score rose by 60 points, according to the New York Times. Other schools have had success with similar changes.
The role of The University’s faculty senate is to consider ideas and suggest them to the president and Board of Trustees.
Since emailing his colleagues, Gougeon has received both positive and negative responses from faculty, he said. He has also spoken to some University alumni, most of whom support the idea. He said he hopes the senate will propose the change to administration, though, so administrators can hire marketing experts to do research about the potential consequences of a name change.
Faculty senate president Rebecca Mikesell, Ph.D., said the senators will “run it up the flagpole and see what kind of feedback [they] get” before recommending anything to administration.
Gougeon emphasized that he has only put forth a proposal for the senate to consider, not a call for The University to adopt a new name without serious consideration and research.
“What I would emphasize is that I’m not calling for a name change. What I’m suggesting is that the administration consider the possibility. And that would then, I assume … precipitate things like market analysis, focus group, surveys of alumni and current students,” he said.
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